Above: Singapore's 2am Dessert Bar chef owner Janice Wong, with her wooden tray of snacks
Feeding the 5,000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread is a miracle. But cooking for a 1,000 in a foreign land where you don't have a familiar network of suppliers and kitchen, with only 2 of your trusted lieutenants from home, has got to count as a wee bit superhuman too, no?
A little context. My little food mad country Singapore has launched a Singapore Takeout campaign, which involves shipping a mobile kitchen container around the world over the next year. It stops for a few days in 9 cities, and a different chef from Singapore helms it in each city to showcase dishes inspired by Singapore flavours.
London Southbank is the first stop -- cos we be a bloody happening foodie city, innit -- and the chef in residence is Janice Wong, who owns and runs the very avant garde 2am Dessert Bar in Singapore's Holland Village. She and London guest star chef Peter Gordon (Providores, Kopapa) will be handing out free samples of fusiony dishes such as Lemongrass infused Laksa Dumplings with Noodles, Sweet Salty Popcorn Yuzu with Caramel, and Chilli Chocolate Corals with Homemade Peanut Butter and Honeycomb.
Through a lovely twist in foodie fate, I spent some time with Janice and her #SGTakeout team this week. Starting with a very serious shopping trip in Chinatown on the weekend. For quality control, Janice wanted to shop for as many of her ingredients herself. It was quite the amusing afternoon of 4 little Asian girls (ok except me, I'm not so little) hauling around crate upon crate of mandarin oranges, drums of cooking oil, and enough sacks of premium cocoa powder to give one a hernia. Some items simply had to be ordered in advance, however, so I didn't get to see what 20kg of lemongrass looks like. But a young chef from the South of France in the catering kitchen apparently did. For a whole 3 hours. As he stood there chopping them all.
A few days later I was signed up to be kitchen photographer (and inevitably an extra pair of kitchen hands) at a private dinner Janice was cheffing. It's a different menu from what will be served at #SG Takeout this weekend, but I thought it'd be a good opportunity to give you some indication of the creativity, discipline and care that goes into Janice's work. (Word on the street was that she dumped 15 litres of coconut milk this week, because she didn't deem the quality of it good enough for you good folks). Hopefully it'll entice you to drop by the Singapore Takeout container on Southbank today (Friday 10 June) or tomorrow to try her food and maybe sneak a peek at her chef demonstration. More details at the end of the post.
Detail on the plank of snacks: White chocolate pretzels, compressed watermelon with blue cheese cream, shards of dried mango and dressed up crackers sit on a garden of edible (chesnut and chocolate) soil.
The Garden "Yu Sheng": Janice's take on a raw fish salad traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year. The herbs are largely foraged from the beaches of Copenhagen, as Janice spent a week with the NOMA lab and foraging team just before coming to London.
Curry Chicken: Chinese "lap cheong", fragrant rice. My key source of amusement from this dish was that I never thought I would ever see chicken curry being plated with tweezers.
Beef: A perfectly seasoned and cooked steak with mushroom veloute, bok choy, 2 flavours of potato, and a smudge of (wait for it) salted egg custard. There was also a slowcooked strawberry in the mix. I didn't try it with the steak but it sure tasted amazing when Janice shoved one in my mouth!
Blood orange snowball: With lemon curd, mandarin orange and laced with condensed milk.
Basil white chocolate: With textures of passionfruit. I dunno how the hell she did it, but she got her favourite poem by Thoreau imprinted on little basil and passionfruit parchments.
Chocolate Coral: With textures of caramel.
And petit fours to go with coffee and tea: Chocolate and peanut butter pops; and toffee cake with kaya custard.
Intrigued? Want to see more?
Head down to London’s South Bank, The Riverside Walkway (by Gabriel’s Wharf), South Bank, London SE1 9PP
Friday 10 June 2011: 5.30pm – 7.45pm
Saturday 11 June 2011: 12.15pm – 3pm, or 5.30pm to 7.45pm
Admission is FREE, with 2 complimentary sample dishes from the menu.
For more updates on the Singapore Takeout event, follow @YourSingaporeUK on Twitter for the London leg, and also the Singapore Eats Facebook Page. For those not in London, here are dates for when Singapore Takeout hits Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Moscow, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Sydney.
Above: Janice at the Singapore launch of Singapore Takeout back in April. See you there, dumpling!